I had an idea for an opening number. I could imagine a tune where we launched off at a fairly energetic rate in the style of one of Bob Berg’s tunes on his Second Sight album from 1993.

At this stage I have very little idea where this going to go after the initial phrase which I’d imagined for Tenor Sax in unison with the rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. Vaguely tthat it will be a good blowing number with not too complex harmonic structure to improvise over, but paying attention to the rhythm.

But I thought it would be worth documenting the steps I took in case it works out and I or someone else could follow the same path in the future.

Capturing the initial rhythmic idea

I wanted to capture the opening phrase to be led by the tenor sax. I had a good idea for the rhythm and would later experiment with melody notes from some of the altered seventh / melodic minor scales with which I’d become very familiar over recent months.

If I didn’t capture the idea now, it would disappear or morph into something else. Luckily my iPhone was on hand.

So I made a Voice Memo recording of my fingers beating the rhythm on the kitchen table.
I tapped a bar count-in and, as it turned out, a further 8 bars of rhythm. Interesting how 8-bar melodic phrases seem to be a natural unit of composition in jazz, and I expect in other forms of music.

Note to self: Sounds like an opportunity to set up and have some fun with the listener’s expectations by varying the phrase length when developing the tune.

Writing down the rhythmic idea

Because Voice Memo is an iCloud app, the recording was already on my Mac when I was ready to write down the 8 bars of rhythm.

Voice Memo doesn’t use the file names you give the recordings in the app, but creates a file name using the time-stamp of the recording, so it’s easy to find it in~/Library/Application Support/com.apple.voicememos/Recordings

I created a directory for the project on my Mac and copied the Voice Memo recording to it.
I then opened the recording in Transcribe! to add some bar markers. It was at this point I first realised that it was an 8 bar phrase. Because I’d recorded a count-in bar, it made it easy to tap in the barlines with the M key on my Mac keyboard.

So, on the top half of my screen I had Transcribe! open and beneath it I had Dorico opened at a new project with just a single staff for a Drum Kit and playback options set to Swing eighth notes.

In this way I was able to go through my phrase bar by bar, writing it down in Dorico and using its playback mode to check that my notation corresponded with my recording and that I’d got the accents as clear as possible to read.